Even though Seth Stisher began waterskiing when he was five, he doesn't consider himself to be a natural. "I'm not that super-talented of an athlete," he says in a tone that acknowledges people might not believe him. "I just tried."
Stisher may feel that way, but he has certainly fooled the waterskiing community. After all, he's a professional slalom skier, and he has been for the majority of his adult life. But Stisher can still recall the fear he felt the first time his father put him behind a boat. "I was a little bit petrified of the water," he admits. "I definitely remember freaking out the first two or three times."
However, his fears and modesty have done little to hinder his career. He was the USA Waterski Southern Region champion in 2006 and 2007 and placed third in the men's division of the 2006 U.S. Championship and sixth in the U.S. Nationals. He takes the most pride in the upsets though, the times he surprised his competitors, medalling in spite of a low seat. During his senior year at the University of Alabama, Stisher unexpectedly won the collegiate nationals competition.
"I wasn't supposed to. I wasn't even the top-seated skier on my team," he muses. "That's when I thought maybe I did have what it takes to ski pro events."
And a year out of school he began doing just that. Since then, he's been entering up to 12 events a season. Yet, Stisher took more from college than a renewed confidence in skiing. He majored in English education, and it was in those classes he found perhaps his greatest passion: coaching. "I was kind of a student of the sport, and I always thought I was able to explain things well to people," Stisher says.
His coaching career began humbly. Working at a ski school right out of college, Stisher found an opportunity — and a lack of serious educators. Most attendees "would just kind of ski for fun."
He says, "I started telling people if they let me ride with them and watch them, I'd be willing to coach them."
Stisher offered a few tips and tricks during those first rides. Before long, people were paying him to share his secrets.
"I literally built my clientele around that," the waterskier says. "It kind of snowballs. Once you have someone who feels something positive with it, then they feel good telling other people."
Stisher turned the interest into a business in 2002, opening H2Osmosis on Johns Island. And as his professional career grew, so did his company. "I've become kind of an authority on all things slalom skiing," he says. "It's given us a huge advantage in the waterskiing world because it has instant credibility."
Ironically, Stisher did not have a steady coach of his own throughout his early years, but his father, who discovered a passion for the sport late in life, offered constant support and encouragement.
"To this day, even if I was only making $10 a year, he would think it's pretty cool I'm doing what I'm doing now," Stisher says. "But I didn't have a lot of formal coaching growing up except my dad, who was into it but didn't know a lot about it."
Stisher did a lot of watching instead. He studied videos of professional skiers, his idols, trying to "reverse engineer how the sport worked."
"I think it allowed me to think about it on a more basic level," he says. That elemental understanding has given him another advantage in the coaching world: He easily made the leap between doing and explaining.
"Some great athletes just happen to be good at things but don't know what they are doing," he says. "That doesn't always allow them to coach because they don't know what it is they are particularly doing well."
Teaching himself through videos made him more of a visual learner, Stisher says. He has discovered that a crucial part of coaching is determining the way people learn best, whether it is audio instruction, video, or trial and error.
Continued involvement is another central aspect of Stisher's coaching style. He likes to watch his students progress and push them even further.
"It is kind of fun, because I never really had that, and I live a bit vicariously through the people I coach," he says. "It is an accomplishment for me to help someone to continue to progress, to become a better athlete than I ever was. So that is more of an accomplishment for me since I am more of a coach than to actually accomplish it myself."
That love for the sport, and sense of achievement, goes to the core of Stisher's beliefs. He is not simply trying to breed champions. He wants to spread his love for waterskiing.
"We built our business around our passion for the sport," he says. "So our goal is to kind of pass that on."
H20smosis, (843) 793-4470, h2osmosis.com.